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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


October 5, 2012

Jitneys to Journalism

Harry M. Covert

Back in the gentle days of my childhood, it was fun riding the city bus, from the stop near my house to the end of the route and back. Gosh, it was a joy and, no kidding, this five year old wasn’t in danger of being attacked or abused by the friendly driver.

 

In those formative years the dream was to be a bus driver, wearing the blue-grey uniform and cap and carrying a silver change carrier which I have to this day and transfers. It was pleasant practicing driving using an upside-down piano bench as a steering wheel and blissfully weaving down the route.

 

Mr. Brackett, the driver, let me ride the last few miles of his course at least once a week; we remained friends through my teen years. The suggestion to use Frederick’s TransIT buses for schools recalled my love for the buses. It also is proof that the way to kill a proposal is to study it to death; and it seems that this style isn’t lost on local officials.

 

As it was previously mentioned, I was blessed to grow up when students attended their neighborhood schools, walked to schools and weren’t fearful of being assaulted by unkempt, unruly and unschooled brats. I never rode a yellow school bus in my life, and I’m glad.

 

It’s not unreasonable for either the school board or city and county leaders to think about using public transportation. The local governments have already invested millions in the buses, the routes and the ancillary requisites to operate. Bureaucracy is at its best when it can make fun or criticize suggestions to use existing facilities. Why duplicate services?

 

The question is why not consolidate similar services? City buses could certainly be utilized for public schools. Bus drivers, if need be, could be sworn as special police officers to maintain discipline on the jitneys, if and when any of the student riders decided to be bullies and pains in the posterior.

 

I admit that society has changed in these days, and governments must be careful in dealing with social matters. It’s a little late for this idea, but I’ve never thought school boards should be elected. Politicizing education is not good and is harmful. School superintendents and school boards should answer to boards of supervisors, city councils, and, not to the courts.

 

Taxing powers belong to city and county governments which provide the funds for schools, administrators and teachers; the responsibility for local education should lie with them. I know, I know, a lone voice in the wilderness on this matter.

 

The old General Motors buses were beautiful vehicles. Nowadays they are built to kneel with all sorts of other modern amenities – air conditioning, wireless availability and cords to buzz when riders arrive at stops. I’ve never cared for the yellow Blue Bird buses probably because I’m a traditionalist.

 

To help defray the costs of the buses, local businesses could sponsor them. The idea to sell naming rights for the Harry Grove Stadium is reprehensible. Use the same acumen to sell the rights to city and county buses and transport the boys and girls to their schools.

 

Opportunities to enter the bus driving business sort of faded as the lure of newspapers got stronger. Our city’s bus drivers organized a union after several of them were shot during their working hours. They threatened to strike, an unheard of thing in those days. Finally drivers were given permission to carry side arms and given raises. Our paper was having difficulty getting the “inside” facts on the problem.

 

Just so happened that Mr. Bracket, my early mentor, remembered me after reading some sports stories carrying my byline (his grandson had done well in a little league baseball game). It was smooth sailing after that, and my hopes for a career jumped from jitneys to journalism.

 

One day recently I figured it would be fun to do a part-time effort maybe as a tour bus driver. While I may still think I’m a late teenager, the facts are the superannuated stage is not a good time to pretend on city and county streets.

 

hmcovert@gmail.com

 



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